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Bladder Cancer

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer starts in the cells that line your bladder.

Kidney, Ureters, Bladder

What increases my risk for bladder cancer?

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age older than 60
  • Exposure to certain chemicals found in paint, dyes, rubber, plastic, metal, and automobile exhaust
  • Exposure to arsenic in drinking water or food
  • A family history of bladder cancer
  • Chronic bladder irritation or inflammation from urinary catheters or frequent urinary tract infections
  • Eating large amounts of high-fat foods or red meats

What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?

  • Blood in your urine or urine that is pink or orange
  • A sudden need to urinate, or urinating more often than usual
  • Trouble starting the stream of urine or urinating very little
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Pain in your abdomen or pelvis
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling tired or weak

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. He or she may insert a gloved finger into your rectum and feel your bladder. You may need any of the following:

  • A urine sample is checked for blood, an infection, or abnormal cells.
  • X-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI pictures may show the tumor size and location. The pictures may also show if the cancer has spread to other places in your body. You may be given contrast liquid to help your bladder, kidneys, and ureters show up better in pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Cystoscopy is a procedure used to look inside the bladder.
  • A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of tissue from your bladder. The tissue is sent to the lab and tested for cancer.

How is bladder cancer treated?

Your healthcare provider will help you create a treatment plan. He or she will talk to you about the benefits and risks of each treatment. Some treatments may cause incontinence (leaking urine) or bowel movement problems. You may also develop problems with having sex or being able to have children. Talk to your provider about these and other problems that may develop after treatment. This will help you feel comfortable with your treatment plan. You may need more than one of the following:

  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is a procedure used to remove the tumor. Bladder muscle near the tumor may also be removed. This procedure is done by inserting tools through your urethra and into your bladder. TURBT may be done if the cancer has not spread to the muscle layer of the bladder.
  • Immunotherapy is medicine given to help your immune system kill cancer cells. It is injected into your vein or directly into your bladder.
  • Chemotherapy is medicine given to kill cancer cells. It may be given to you as a pill or an injection into your vein or muscle. It may also be injected directly into your bladder. This is called intravesical chemo. Intravesical chemo is placed into the bladder through a catheter. The chemo usually stays in the bladder for 2 hours. Then chemo is drained from the bladder and the catheter is removed.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-ray beams to kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove your bladder. Surrounding organs and lymph nodes may also be removed. Surgery may be needed if the cancer has spread to the muscle layer of the bladder.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to care for myself?

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it hard to manage your bladder cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may cause you to become dehydrated. Ask your oncologist if it is safe for you to drink alcohol, and how much is safe to drink.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you eat less red meat. You need to eat enough calories to help prevent weight loss and increase your energy level. You also need protein to give you strength. If you do not feel hungry, eat small amounts often instead of large meals.
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquids than usual to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise may help increase your energy level and appetite. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise you need and which exercises are best for you.

Where can I find more information and support?

It may be difficult for you and your family to go through cancer and cancer treatments. Join a support group or talk with others who have gone through treatment.

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:
  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address:

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You are unable to urinate.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You vomit and cannot keep any liquids or food down.
  • You have new or worsening pain.
  • Your pain gets worse or does not go away after you take pain medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Learn more about Bladder Cancer

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.